In re A.F.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
Citation498 P.3d 1006
Docket NumberNo. 54565-9-II,54565-9-II
Parties In the MATTER OF the DETENTION OF: A.F., Appellant.
Decision Date16 November 2021

498 P.3d 1006

In the MATTER OF the DETENTION OF: A.F., Appellant.

No. 54565-9-II

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2.

Filed November 16, 2021

Jennifer J. Sweigert, Nielsen Koch PLLC, 1908 E Madison St., Seattle, WA, 98122-2842, for Appellant.

Marcus Jay Miller, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Stephen D. Trinen, Pierce County Prosecutors Office, 955 Tacoma Ave. S Ste. 301, Tacoma, WA, 98402-2160, for Respondent.


Cruser, J.

¶1 AF appeals the order detaining him for 14 days for involuntary treatment.1 AF argues that the trial court's findings were not sufficient to allow for meaningful review, the trial court's factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence and that, therefore, its conclusion that he was gravely disabled was erroneous, and the trial court

498 P.3d 1009

failed to properly inform AF regarding his firearm rights under RCW 71.05.240(2).2

¶2 We hold that the trial court's findings were sufficient to permit meaningful review, that they were supported by substantial evidence, and that they, in turn, supported the trial court's conclusion that AF was gravely disabled. We decline to consider whether the trial court failed to properly inform AF regarding his firearm rights under RCW 71.05.240(2) because AF did not preserve this issue for review. Accordingly, we affirm.



¶3 A few months prior to the order at issue in this appeal, AF was admitted to Western State Hospital (WSH) because he was found to be a danger to others. However, in the days leading up to the involuntary commitment, AF had been staying at WSH voluntarily. When AF decided to leave against medical advice, staff at WSH petitioned for a 72-hour hold, which was granted. WSH then petitioned for 14 days of involuntary treatment on the grounds that AF was gravely disabled. Doctor Wendi Wachsmuth, along with a medical doctor, brought the petition and attached a signed declaration.


¶4 In January 2020, the court held a hearing to determine if there was probable cause to detain AF for 14 days. The State called Dr. Wachsmuth, two of AF's social workers, and AF's son in support of the petition. At the hearing, the court orally informed AF that "if we go to a full hearing and I sign an order of detention, [then] you [will] lose your firearm rights." Sealed Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) at 17.


¶5 In preparation of the hearing, Dr. Wachsmuth reviewed AF's chart, reviewed available electronic records pertaining to AF, interviewed AF, and interviewed members of AF's treatment team.

¶6 AF was "largely appropriate for the interaction" with Dr. Wachsmuth, but he also made delusional or incorrect statements. Id. at 9. AF was "oriented in all spheres," understood his situation, his memory was "primarily intact," and his thought process was also "[l]argely logical, linear, [and] goal-directed." Id. at 9, 11. However, AF's speech was "quiet," "halting," and "latent." Id. at 10. There was often a lag between a question and AF's response. Dr. Wachsmuth was unsure if AF's speech difficulties were related to interference from internal stimulation or to his Parkinson's disease. AF reported "insertion delusions" and that people sent him messages. Id. at 11.

¶7 Dr. Wachsmuth learned from the staff that AF paced, had been agitated, and acted in an intrusive and aggressive manner. This included AF telling staff members, who he believed were of African or African American descent, that they were dying, their parents were dead, and they should return to Africa. Dr. Wachsmuth believed that AF's delusions caused him to angrily express these thoughts. Attempts to calm AF were unsuccessful.

¶8 During a brief conversation with Dr. Wachsmuth that was free of stimulation, AF was able to maintain control. However, Dr. Wachsmuth was concerned that AF's delusional thoughts and his physical reactions indicated "a lack of cognitive and volitional control." Id. at 15. Dr. Wachsmuth believed that the intensity and frequency of AF's mental health symptoms had escalated over the previous two weeks.

¶9 AF also suffered from Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's originates in the brain and results in physical disabilities, and it can also cause cognitive deficits in an advanced stage. Dr. Wachsmuth noted that while she spoke with AF his head and neck would move involuntarily; the doctor believed that the movement was related to AF's Parkinson's. AF also had tremors that impacted his entire body.

498 P.3d 1010

¶10 Regarding AF's mental health diagnosis, Dr. Wachsmuth opined that AF suffered from bipolar type one, and that he exhibited symptoms indicative of schizo-affective disorder.

¶11 AF acknowledged to Dr. Wachsmuth that he had mental health problems, which he described as anger and a temper. AF did not articulate what medication he took or how his symptoms impacted his ability to function, but he took medications when prompted.

¶12 Given AF's physical impairments, Dr. Wachsmuth believed that AF did not have a viable plan once discharged. AF needed assistance throughout the day to ensure he could conduct his daily living activities, and he needed to be at a place that could provide him with 24-hour care. However, AF failed to acknowledge his physical limitations, and AF did not articulate a plan to take care of his physical needs.

¶13 Dr. Wachsmuth opined that AF was gravely disabled under both RCW 71.05.020(24)(a) and RCW 71.05.020(24)(b).3 Dr. Wachsmuth explained that AF was not physically capable of caring for himself and that his mental illness prevented him from seeking out appropriate medical care. AF no longer needed to be at WSH, but he also could not be discharged without some type of support.


¶14 A discharge social worker, Vickie Lanciano, also testified. Lanciano spent two months looking for a placement for AF. However, Lanciano had been unsuccessful because AF's son, who had durable power of attorney, had not been willing to work with her to determine AF's assets. AF told Lanciano that, if released, he would go to his son's home to get his phone and money, then he would visit family in Bellevue or Kirkland.

¶15 A psychiatric social worker, Shannon Rawlings, also testified. Rawlings regularly worked with AF, and testified that AF had become more agitated in the days leading up to the hearing.


¶16 AF's son, JF, visited AF about once a week, and he noticed that AF had become more agitated and aggressive. During JF's last visit with AF prior to the hearing, AF insisted that JF was not actually his son, and that his son was really at the South Pole. When JF asked AF if he knew JF's name, AF did not respond. However, by the time JF left, AF recognized that JF was his son again.

¶17 JF also feared that his own safety would be at risk if he allowed AF to return to his home. For example, AF had previously fought with JF and, on four occasions, had pulled a knife on JF. Based on his fear of AF, JF had installed locks on the doors. Prior to AF's hospitalization, JF occasionally had to force AF to take his medication and AF would become aggressive as a result.

¶18 AF also "escaped," as JF put it, multiple times. Id. at 43. On one occasion, AF left the house unexpectedly, and JF sought help from the police to find him. On another occasion AF and JF were in a doctor's office, and AF left out a back door during his appointment, leaving JF in the waiting area. JF was concerned that if AF were to return to his home, these behaviors would continue.

¶19 JF also testified that he was not married and AF had no other family members in the area.


¶20 The court found that AF's diagnoses were bipolar disorder, type one (partial remission) and Parkinson's disease. The court found that as a result of a mental disorder AF was "in danger of serious physical harm resulting from a failure to provide for his ... essential human needs of health or safety" and that AF "manifest[ed] severe deterioration in routine functioning evidenced by repeated and escalating loss of cognitive or volitional control over his ... actions and is

498 P.3d 1011

not receiving such care as is essential for his ... health or safety." Sealed Clerk's Papers (CP) at 21. The court's findings included summaries of the testimony of Dr. Wachsmuth, the two social workers, and JF. The court stated that "based on the verified [p]etition and the testimony of Petitioner, the Respondent [sic]: Respondent is not physically caring for himself. He cannot appropriately seek medical or mental health care." Id. (emphasis omitted).

¶21 The court ordered AF to be detained because he was gravely disabled as defined by RCW 71.05.020(24)(a) and (b).

¶22 AF appeals.



¶23 AF argues that the trial court's findings are inadequate because they contain boilerplate statutory language. Thus, he contends, the findings are insufficient to permit meaningful review of the trial court's conclusion that he is gravely disabled.


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